I was only the other day thinking about how great technology is – with specific reference to watching television. Even more specifically I mean television not as it broadcast ‘live’ – though watching television on a computer, mobile phone, beer pump or iPad is pretty fucking sweet.
No I was thinking about the likes of Sky+, BBC iPlayer and downloading electronic versions*. For most of my life if I wasn’t watching something when it was broadcast I was pretty much fucked for being able to see it. I was probably six or seven before an option arrived and we got a video. Even then it didn’t mean there was much usage of the video to record stuff. (1) Blank tapes didn’t grow on trees – specifically High Grade Scotch ones as I insisted upon using – and as soon as I got them I would fill them with something I adored and re-watched endlessly (and I would realise was shit when I watched as an adult): Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment, Jossy’s Giants and Trading Places (I wouldn’t realise this was shit in later life because it’s the fucking truth and that is honestly NOTHING to do with Jamie Lee Curtis’ chebs). And that is pretty much it**: I think I had one more tape with Comic Relief on it (don’t ask me) but this was a little later when we progressed to a video with LONG PLAY.
Long Play on videos seemed like the absolute apex of recording technology. And I suppose it was for a few years. To all of a sudden be able to record EIGHT hours on a FOUR-hour tape was like a breath of Polo mint-fresh air. You could now get two series of a comedy AND a film on tape. I was a bit haphazard at times and bad at planning meaning there were some strange mixes of content. Another flaw was that sometimes I wouldn’t realise how much I would like something and it would not be at the start of a tape because I had bunged it on after something: Knowing Me, Knowing You with Alan Partridge springs to mind, which was on after a Fantasy Football World Cup Special that certainly owed a debt to KMKYWAP as I would probably have recorded over it had it not had that after it. (I in turn owed that a debt as re-watching any Fantasy Football years later was a real treat.)
The aftermath of long play was that I really resented old tapes in long play. A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then and I should apologise to those tapes: I am sorry. I also think you should have been known as regular play. If long play was doubling the length of a tape then short play should have implied some shortening. It did not.
As for the actual recording of stuff you had to rely on timers. This involved a lot of programming times and stuff – and was basically fucked for anything than one day because of the length of tapes. VIDEO+ launched in a blaze of glory, imagining itself as some brave new world; basically it saved you about 40 seconds when setting the timer. It was rubbish.
And now look at us – multi-channel set top boxes with built in hard drives mean you can go away for a fortnight and not miss one programme as its all saved. And if you haven’t saved it on your Sky+ then you can download it or watch it on a website. It’s fucking brilliant.
Does he have a point? Is that what you are asking? Well, kind of: this amazing level of platforms to feast on television means that people don’t have a linear, structured way of watching programmes (i.e. by switching a channel on during the broadcast) and that is great. However there are programmes that will not obey this: I’m talking about your EVENT programmes. Your X-Factors, Pop Idols, Your ‘Talents…for me the only show which falls into this bracket is your Apprentices.
I couldn’t watch it on Wednesday this week as MJEA was away. By the time we watched it tonight I had seen – accidentally – the evicted person revealed in big picture stories in free papers. Couldn’t they wait a few days to break the story (of revealing what has been broadcast on television’s most watched channel the night before)? I’d avoided Twitter and Facebook and everything: real people are as fucking annoying as papers when it comes to revealing what has happened in something you are delaying watching: I’d know I do it all the time.
*I could have said ‘On Demand Streaming Services’ instead of BBC iPlayer but that’s the only one I use; mainly because the others are wank and, much like actual entertainment broadcast, most of what is good is on the BBC.
**I did also have some not-recorded off TV things: 101 Great Goals and The World’s Greatest Goals from Charlton to Maradonna: a wide spectrum. All I am saying is I would still watch either of them right now.